He was a handsome child beneath the blood and grime, his dusty, dark lashes long over lowered eyes. Our presence there meant nothing to him as his mind tried to sort out the day’s events. Thin as a whip, I wondered when he had his last meal. Smiling at Mary, I knelt and spoke to him.
“My name is Dr. Simon,” I introduced myself, “and this is my wife, Mary. I’m going to exam you for injuries, son, and I promise it’s not going to hurt.”
He continued to stare straight ahead, emotionless, as Mary prepared a sterile rinse for his lacerations. While I listened to his heart and lungs, she gently washed the stoic boy’s head wounds, crooning softly to him as she worked. Cleaning the dust and blood from his face with the sterile water, she patted it dry and applied a topical antibiotic, covering his head with sterile gauze. Amazingly, he uttered not a sound as she worked, nor did he look at her. But when she took his small face in her hands and kissed his forehead, his small arms came up and around her neck, clutching her for dear life as he uttered one word, ‘Ana’. Mother.
Crying openly, Mary wrapped her arms around the child, picking him up and holding him tightly to her chest. I took this moment of passion to relate what James had asked of us.
“Yes,” she said without hesitation, “Yes.”
My heart sped up as I sought out James to tell him of our decision.
“James,” I caught up with him in the surgery tent, the stench of blood and sawed bone filling my nostrils. Looking around, I was shocked at the carnage. Patients lay screaming for death to take them as the pain from shredded limbs became their reality. I closed my eyes, wishing I could cover my ears, as well. These people were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, and now orphaned children. They did nothing to deserve this living hell.
“Simon!” I turned to see him striding purposefully towards me and more than hopeful by my expression.
“We’ll do it, my friend,” I confirmed, “We’ll take him.”
He hugged me, patting my back joyously. “I knew once you saw this kid you’d help him. Now, we have to be fast. There’s going to be some military coming through here in about fifteen minutes. I took it upon myself to set up the contacts so you can move him safely to the airport.”
“Won’t people be a little suspicious to see two westerners accompanying a Turkish child?” I asked him.
“Yes, that’s why we have clothes for the both of you to wear,” he answered, “I’m glad Mary is of Italian descent. Wearing a hijab will blend her right in. For you, we have a taqiyah for your head. How’s your Turkish?”
“Bilmiyorum,” I don’t know, I told him.
“Excellent. Your passports are in the bag,” Simon laughed, “now hurry and have Mary change quickly, we only have about fifteen minutes left.”
I shook his hand, and wishing me luck gave me a quick hug.
“Thank you, James,” he said before turning away.
Mary changed quickly then helped Mahid change into clean clothes, rushing to James’ side as he waited by a car. He helped them inside and the car sped off towards the Gaziantep Oğuzeli International Airport. Looking over at Mary, I was a little shocked by her apparel. All I could see were her eyes!
As we drove, the ground suddenly shook with force of another airstrike from a Russian TU-142 aircraft. Entering the airport parking lot, the vehicle we were in rocked precariously from the blast, veering sharply to the right as the driver lost control. From within Mary’s arms, Mahid screamed shrilly, burying his head between her neck and shoulder and clutching her painfully tight. With my arm around both of them, we exited out the same door, grabbing our bags. I threw the driver a bill, told him to keep the change, and we tore across the parking lot to main entrance of the airport. I looked back and saw a tall pillar of smoke and fire, my heart lurching at the thought of how many people just lost their lives. How many children were dead or horribly burned?
We ran to the ticket window, showed our passports and I looked up at the large screen to see when the first plane was due to leave for the US. I felt as if everyone was looking at us and tried to be calm, pretending as if I wasn’t trying to smuggle a child out of Turkey. Regardless, my hands shook wildly as I paid for our flight which was to leave in five minutes. We’d made it just in time.
“Sir, check your baggage in over there,” the woman at the window pointed at the baggage carousel and we hurried over, dropped off our bags, and ran for gate seven where they looked at our passports again.I had a moment of panic when security looked a little too long at the passports, checking and comparing the photos at least a dozen times. Finally satisfied, he handed back the passports and let us through. I breathed in a ragged breath, noticing the tears shimmering in Mary’s eyes as she gripped Mahid tightly. We made it. We saved a little war child from more unspeakable horrors to come.
Mary finally sat with us at the dinner table as the ten of us bowed our heads in prayer, looking forward to her famous roast leg of lamb with mint jelly and rosemary. Mahid led us in prayer.
“Lord Jesus, thank for this wonderful meal Ana prepared with such loving care. God, please bless us and keep us, and let us never forget those who are less fortunate. Amen.”
A seriously handsome young man at eighteen, he’d been a blessing to us as we made the trip to Syria seven more times in the past thirteen years. I looked around the table at our growing family, ages three and up, my eyes lingering on everyone’s favorite, little Asu. Tiny for a five year old, one third of her body covered with horrific burns. Seeing her smile and laugh was nothing short of a miracle. Our children were all special, all needing special care to help them to deal with their first years of life in hell. I met Mary’s eyes, taking her small hand in mine and squeezing tight, loving this amazing woman with all of my heart. Our mission in life wasn’t over yet, I was sure. Not as long as mad men dropped bombs from the sky.
© 2016, RissRyker518. All rights reserved.
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